Last week I included Leslie A’s blog post, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: America’s New Religion in my Saturday Sampler collection. I’d seen this term before, most notably in Michael Horton’s book, Christless Christianity. Horton’s book sort of reminded me of how my involvement in Christian pop-psychology eroded my theology over the years, but reading Leslie’s post really alerted me to the fact that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism poses a serious problem in evangelical circles.
To explain Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, let me borrow from Leslie, who in turn borrowed from Wikipedia:
There are five main beliefs of MTD–
- A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
- God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
- The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
- God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
- Good people go to heaven when they die.
(from this Wikipedia Article)
While I probably would have intellectually disagreed with pretty much all of those tenets when MTD influenced my thinking, on a practical level I lived out those basic attitudes. The church and ministry I belonged to at the time used Scripture, yes, but often we used it to buttress psychological or mystical ideas rather than evaluating those ideas through the lens of sound doctrine.
I hasten to say that some of us in that group were genuinely saved. I believe I was. Sadly, the overwhelming prevalence of psychological ideology distracted us from properly interpreting and applying God’s Word to our lives. Despite our insistence that we believed the Bible, we in fact followed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in how we ministered to each other. Slowly, at least in my personal life, fundamental Christian doctrines took a back seat to the “deeper ministry” of Christian pop-psychology.
During the height of my deception, I had conversations with two non-Christians who used the same psychological terminology that we had been using in the counseling ministry I worked for. Additionally, I watched Oprah Winfrey on my days off, intrigued that she also used the same psychological jargon. I found myself entertaining the unbiblical idea that, even through someone didn’t acknowledge Christ, they might know Him through pop-psychology.
Mercifully, the Holy Spirit never let me fully embrace such blasphemous notions, but I relate my experience here to augment what Leslie wrote last week. Bible-believing Christians must vigilantly guard against Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, recognizing how subtly it blends in with popular trends in evangelical thought. I anticipate writing more about this topic in future articles, as I believe it’s a top threat to Biblical Christianity. Thankfully, the Lord has power to rescue people as He rescued me.